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According to the narrator, the root cause of poverty, inequality, and the recent financial crisis is none other than the separation of labor and capital. This particular phenomenon gives rise to the need for employment, banking, mortgages, student loans, the stock market, living in the suburbs, and pensions. The narrator made the implication that it is no longer practical to consider these things as normal activities. He went on to say that a radical behavior change is needed (Tomasi 27). Therefore, he said that change is impossible if people expect it to come through the actions of governments, business leaders, and economists. He concluded that relevant and far-reaching change must begin with the individual.
The narrator shifted gears and clarified that he was not espousing a movement that leads to the destruction of bureaucracies and institutions. Nevertheless, he makes a case to act to change the world. He said that taking appropriate actions do not lead to anti-government protests. It is a mindset that leads to changes in behavior. The narrator believes that long-lasting change is possible if the movement inspires the participation of a significant number of individuals. The narrator talks about the importance of balancing the need for personal gain and the need to give back to the community. He said that it is impossible to engage in a new lifestyle defined by altruism. Nevertheless, he believes that people can live unselfish lives if they learn to follow a moral code.
The narrator delved deeper into the idea of separating capital and labor. He said that the conventional way of doing business suffers from a narrow-minded view. On one side of the economy, one can find the advocates of the so-called Invisible Hand (Tomasi 266). On the other side, one can find people supporting the idea of changing the system by creating new and effective laws. The narrator said that there is an alternative solution to the problem, and it is to integrate labor and capital.
The narrator went on to describe the ideal model that showcases the integration of labor and capital, and it is none other than the image of a farmer cultivating his land. He went on to say that the best way to understand this particular lifestyle is to examine the lives of farmers before the dawn of the Industrial Age.
He went on to say that the ability to cultivate the land and to engage in agricultural activities enable the farmer to enjoy a reliable supply of basic commodities. On the other hand, he understood the challenges faced by ordinary Americans. He went on to discuss the advantages of owning a farm, and he discussed it along the lines of sustainable practices. Nevertheless, he also pointed out the reasons why the transition from conventional employment to that of an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart.
He added that it is difficult to acquire lands for farmers because speculators drive up the price of a commodity. The narrator ended his argument by saying:
- that human beings must seek to become owner owners of productive capital;
- it is important to derive value from long-term use of capital,
- one must manage capital actively and directly.
Those who support the narrator’s stance, tend to focus only on the positive attributes of a system that they believe will help solve some of the pressing economic and social issues of the day. Nevertheless, they refuse to focus on the negative consequences of integrating labor and capital. They tend to highlight only the beneficial outcomes of engaging in a certain type of behavior but they shy away from revealing the problems and challenges that they face when they decided to integrate labor and capital.
The same thing can be said of the supporters of the side of the debate. Those who criticize the narrator’s ideas only focus on the negative things that can be seen without spending time and effort to try to understand the opposite point of view. Therefore, effective analysis of the video requires a critical thinking approach, and this means examining both sides of the narrative. Consider, for example, the historical evidence of the shortcomings of Adam Smith’s theoretical framework. In the latter part of the 19th century, the Indian continent suffers from a major famine outbreak. In the end, the shortage of food due to the impact of drought claimed the lives of millions of people (Davis 33).
Villages were wiped out because there was no food. However, a careful examination of the fact would reveal that food shortages were not the direct impact of the drought, but it was the result of speculation. Businessmen and the elite members of society started to speculate that due to the upcoming drought, the price of the gain would go up. Thus, they started to buy large quantities of grains. As a result, the scarcity of grains in the market created an artificial increase in prices. Thus, even the poor farmers who were the ones working on the fields, they can no longer afford the commodity that they help to cultivate.
During the time of the terrible famine that ravished India, certain members of the upper crust of Indian society perceived the negative consequences of preventing the government from making the necessary interventions, such as creating price ceilings and eliminating any type of hoarding to sell back the grains when the prices had soared through the roof.
Although there is a justifiable reason to go against the ideas of Adam Smith at the time of the food shortages and hunger, it is also important to consider why Smith formulated the theory in the first place. One can make the argument that Adam Smith was not a fool to develop a theory without any type of scientific basis. Adam Smith was not thinking about food shortages and other negative consequences that came out because of his theory, he was thinking about the negative consequences of an oppressive government or a centralized authority that can make decisions without thinking about the negative consequences for other people.
It is also important to challenge the idealized version of the farmer. The narrator focused his attention on the wonderful experience of farming. He spoke about empowering the farmer because he can now produce products through his own hands. A farmer’s life seems like an ideal way to earn a living or feed the family. On the other hand, it is also important to point out the life of a farmer is never about sugar and spice. For example, at the turn of the 20th century, farmers were saddled with the following problems 1) high freight rates charged by the railroads and 2) high-interest rates demanded by the banks (Jensen 265).
The narrator talks about cultivating the soil as if there is no end to the love affair between a human being and his property. He seems to suggest that there is no other requirement and that the only thing needed to do is to commit to stay on the course and work hard. Nonetheless, this belief system is flawed especially with regards to factors that are beyond the control of the farmers. The best example is a great famine that swept Ireland more than one hundred years ago. According to one report: “Before its end, the tragedy would take approximately 1 million lives; it would chase more than 2 million people from their homeland.
It would nearly erase culture and language that existed for thousands of years” (O’Neill 7). The great famine of Ireland struck a deadly blow because disease-causing microorganisms destroyed potato farms, and since potato was their staple food, men, women, and children went to bed hungry. The struggle for food became so overwhelming that many decided to leave. Mass migration followed and many of them landed in New York. In other words, it is not accurate to say that the separation of labor and capital is the main cause of poverty. In this particular instance, farmers became poor because of circumstances beyond their control. In other words, farmers remain poor not because they do not have access to resources, but as a result of other factors.
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Going back to the other side of the argument, the farmers suffer from the impact of pests and microbes. They find solutions, not from other farmers. They were unable to solve the problem of pest infestation and its impact on plant tissues. The organization of individuals responsible for solving the agricultural problems that plague farmers all over the world did not come from their fellow soil cultivators. The solution came from scientists and research facilities, the same thing that gets destroyed if people decide to follow the romantic musings of the narrator who wanted his audience to go back to the life of farming.
It must be made clear that the solution came from the collaboration of great minds nurtured by institutions that came about because of the accumulation of wealth. One can make the argument that due to the presence of social structures that the narrator deemed as useless and dangerous to the economy, the farmers were able to access the appropriate learning institutions that allowed them to understand the art and science of planting crops.
In other words, if the farmers remained as the tillers of the soil in the mold of the farmers in the pre-industrial world, then, they would remain ignorant. If they are ignorant, then, they could never have understood the strategies that they will need to deploy and apply to reverse the impact of agricultural issues.
It seems like the presence of conventional economic institutions is needed to facilitate progress. On the other hand, a careful examination of the results of the free market enterprise is the emergence of global corporations that enable a few members of society to use the labor of farmers to increase their influence and their wealth. It is easy to understand how giant corporations and heartless landlords tried to use their power to sustain a certain atmosphere so that those who are rich become richer while those who are poor remain the same.
If one will consider the idea of going back to pre-industrial times so that a farmer can cultivate the land while at the same time becoming the master of his fate, then, there is a need to overturn the system. However, it is easy to understand that families do not have the resources to simply end the suffering of people. It is also best to consider how to help them practically.
It will not take long to realize that it is impossible to change the fundamental issues of society without going through a revolutionary phase. It means that to change the basic form of governance, to break the stranglehold of the rich, and to redistribute the wealth, there seems to be no other option except to engage in open rebellion against the state. This is not the best course of action because the history of the world is replete with examples of how people tried to use violence to accomplish a certain goal, ended up destroying the things that they cherish the most. One must be reminded of the actions of dictators and leaders who were so onerous because they initiated genocide.
One of the terrible examples of this kind of leadership was Pol Pot; he was the dictator that ruled Cambodia when the nation was under the control of the communists. Pol Pot realized that the people will never change. Thus, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and he transformed a high school building in the middle of the city and made it into a concentration camp (Weltig 102).
It is best to present both sides of the narrative. The narrator was biased with his ideas and he failed to show the negative consequences of the things that he wanted to espouse. A balanced view is needed because an idealized view will make people feel that they had been manipulated as they were served half-truths. To accomplish real change, the people must make a choice and they must understand the choices that they have made.
Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Press, 2001. Print.
Jensen, Jennifer. The Routledge History of American Foodways. New York, NY: Routledge, 2016. Print.
O’Neill, Joseph. Irish Potato Famine. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2009. Print.
Tomasi, John. Free market fairness. New Jersey, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012. Print.
Weltig, Matthew. Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2012. Print.